The hard work and the dedication started to pay-off for Tappoobhai. The rental for his first business was five pounds a month. Six year later he shifted into better premises, willingly paying 40 pounds a month.

In 1962 he paid three thousand pounds for his own piece of land. Within two decades from starting his own business, Tappoobhai had made his first major capital investment. It was the start of an organisation that would go national within the next two to three decades, opening up shops all around the country and becoming a household name in Fiji.

He also had a small truck that serviced the business and he had hired his first employee, an indigenous Fijian named Bulou after whom is named a major investment company of the Tappoo Group.

He now had his own shop, a wife who lent an able hand and an economy that was stable and conducive to business. It was also time to start a family.

The children were schooling. It was still hard times: running a business and raising a family, and the streak of persistence that marked Tappoobhai held everything together.

Kanti was the smartest, he says of his eldest. Kanti was the catalyst that changed Tappoo from a smalltown grocer into a major national retailer.

Kanti changed the small-scale produce distribution around Viti Levu into a mammoth national distribution unit that now deals with some of the most famous branded names in the world.

He changed the grocery/drapery business into a duty free/luxury goods concern that extended into hotels and later into the airport concession arena.

With other brothers joining him as they finishedt heir education, Kanti steered the company into an expansionary mode that continued finding avenues of interest in any aspect of retailing and distribution.

The secret of success

The Grace of God, the Founder stated when asked what is the secret of the success of the company.

It is more the success of the family than the company that I am concerned about, he said.

The company can only be good when the family is united, supportive and together, he says.

Tappoobhai retired in 1972, handing over the running of his shop to his eldest son, later to be joined by other sons and their sons.

Devoutly religious and a great believer in the human values of truth, righteousness, peace, love and nonviolence Tappoobhai had striven to imbue these values into his family.

When the family is strong and on the right path, whatever they do will be right the said.

It is by the grace of God that my family has been together as one and that is all I ask from the Almighty, he says.

On the company itself, Tappoobhai saw it a vehicle to do good.

It was Mahatma Gandhi who taught me that rather than giving hand-outs, one should create jobs so that people benefit in the long run.

There are 800 people working for us and their homes are running because of the jobs they have. I am happy that the company offers this great service to the nation.

There is more benefit in offering people a chance to earn their living than in giving alms.

On the nation that he has come to call his own: I only wish we had the unity that we had before. We worked together; Hindus, Muslims, Christians. Race was never a problem.

We did not have any division. Even now I go to Kavanagasau, or the village or settlement around Sigatoka and the respect they show me is humbling, Tappoobhai says.

I have very fond memories of my life with the Fijians and the Indian cane farmers with whom I have lived and interacted so much throughout my working life.

The Tappoo family grew up with the villagers of Laselase (where the first Tappoo store was).

Tappoobhai and his wife Ladhiben continue to live in Korotogo, Sigatoka. The headquarters of the Tappoo Group remains in Sigatoka to this day.

– Nalinesh Arun Senior Journalist and writer

Sigatoka River

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